By Joanne Elston, posted 12/03/21
Insider knowledge and thoughts from our Swapshop Coordinator.
When I first started at SHRUB Coop as a volunteer, one of the first things I remember (apart from the great atmosphere and the friendly people) was the amount of stuff. As soon as you went into the back of the shop, there were boxes and bags of things everywhere. Bags of donations to be sorted, boxes of priced clothes to take to the store room, huge bags of clothes waiting to be taken to reuse partners. It completely changed the idea I had of charity shops as being a place where everything that was brought in was rehomed, it is simply not possible for these shops to sell the amount that is being donated to them.
At SHRUB Coop, we have always tried our best to make sure that things are being used as environmentally and ethically as possible, whether by passing things on to local direct action charities or by trying to ensure that anything that can be recycled isn’t put in the bin.
I started to wonder, however, why we had so much stuff. So much of it was great quality and yet we couldn’t sell it. Why, when there was this much clothing in charity shops, did people keep buying more new clothing every day. To put this into context, in the UK, we buy more new clothing each year than any other country in Europe.
I believe that we do not currently value clothes enough. The price tag on an item of clothing is often unconnected to the amount of environmental resources and human labour it takes to produce that item.
As part of our aim to stop this, we have produced a Fabric Awareness Booklet. With this booklet, we are aiming to help people learn more about all the different kinds of textiles there are and how much energy, water, chemical input and human effort it takes to produce them. We hope that by learning this, anyone who reads this booklet will begin to value clothes and textiles more and therefore start to buy second hand, repair, mend, upcycle, and swap clothes to keep them in use for as long as possible. We have tried to make this booklet as accessible as possible, with no prior knowledge of textiles required. It takes you through the difference between natural and synthetic fibres, gives a bit of information about textile recycling, and provides some details of each different type of textile,some of the sustainability information around it’s production, and things you can look out for (e.g. fair trade/ organic certifications or new alternatives). This booklet is just a start, there is so much more information out there to be read/ watched about different kinds of textiles, but hopefully this will help you think about what you might want to look into or start asking questions of your favourite brands about their production methods.
On our website, you will be able to both view and download this booklet. Please feel free to share it with anyone else who you think might be interested in reading it/ passing it on.
If you have any questions about it or would like access to some physical copies to put in a community space, please email email@example.com.
SHRUB Coop is supported through a combination of grant funding and generous donations from our community. We’re grateful for all their support. Find out more about our grant funders by clicking on the logos above.